This year I am the age my mother was when she had me. For some reason that feels significant. As I write this and my eyes unexpectedly well up, I realize that I have not reflected on my abortion since I had it, except to remind my partner what a shit feminist he can be.
I was never good at remembering when my period was due - I have a string of stained pants to prove it. But the month it happened I remember repeating to myself ‘it should’ve arrived by now surely?’ Maybe the moon’s orbit was out of sink or my cycle had twinned with my menopausal mother’s? As I held the test in my wet hand, wishing away the blue lines, I knew it was not a mistake. I had known already somehow. My body had already started to change, subtle but perceptible changes.
My partner was there when I came out of the toilet and hugged me as I curled up in bed. He told me repeatedly that he’d stand by my decision whatever it was. There was no doubt in my mind – I was getting an abortion. Okay, he said, opening his laptop, this is where you need to go. You’ve been here before, I said. Yes, he replied.
I was so angry and disappointed at him. Yes, I’d been careless too but it felt so wrong that after fathering a life once he had not taken more care for it to never happen again. Now, for the second time he was on the precipice of fatherhood yet he felt no emotional connection to the life we had both created. He felt a lot for me and was there for me, yes, but not for his child to be. He didn’t feel the fear, the life, the loss of another abortion. The inequality of it felt stark.
Between my initial appointment with the doctor and booking the procedure, a week passed. At the time, my relationship with my own mother was strained and I was in the process of taking difficult steps away from what she expected of me. I was trying to plough through the thorns and the fear to become my own person. I remember that for that week, my secret motherhood felt powerful and liberating, giving me the strength to stand up on my own two feet.
I was 7 weeks pregnant and decided to go for the surgical procedure, as it sounded like the most full proof. I remember it being described to me as a vacuum cleaner. Having watched too many documentaries about the 1 in so-many-people who despite anesthetics, feel and hear everything, I was terrified. I had nightmarish visions of the surgeons laughing at me and putting my body into ridiculous positions whilst I was asleep. I felt uncomfortable about leaving my unconscious body to them. I remember the face of the grey-haired aesthetician peering at me as I passed out. All I remember is waking up sobbing uncontrollably - apparently a side effect of anesthetics.
My decision to have an abortion didn’t feel difficult. I was disappointed in my partner and myself for not being more careful but I didn’t have to fight off guilt and my conscience was clear. Waking up to myself bawling uncontrollably was a shock. It felt like my subconscious was letting go of all the unsaid and unformed feelings for the life that had been inside me.
When we finally left, we were met outside by a lone-protestor with a placard. He was there to intimidate people like me on the way in and scar our consciences on the way out.
But we won’t be deterred, because we haven’t done anything wrong.
That’s what makes this space so important. It is a space where we are not alone, and will not be silenced or shamed for exercising our right to our womb.